AT MAPLETREE FARM

It’s Time!

Wow. I last wrote for the website in late fall. Now late winter and where has the time gone? The old saying “Time marches on” is true of course. Soon we will be out tapping. As I wrote last year “COVID or NO, the sap will flow.”

In fact, sap ran yesterday and today as the temperatures were above 40 degrees. History on this website will tell you why the old man has not tapped yet! Clue: Sap ran in October, November December, and January when the temps were above freezing. So, as we get ready for another production season, we will tap late February and early March when the sap is the sweetest and it is time!

You will notice some changes on the website and in social media posts. It is transition time at Mapletree Farm. Sure, I am still at the sugarhouse most every day and will continue. Some of my helpers have moved on and I understand. Life makes all of us make certain decisions. Mine, after Meg’s passing has been to continue as she would have wished. 2021 was a fantastic year but still very difficult. I’ve met new friends, been comforted by old friends, and still love packaging our maple syrup, making maple cream, maple nuts and occasionally maple cotton candy. Your visits and calls to the sugarhouse make my day- every day. Thank you.

I am trying to transition to a takeover of MTF. At 81, I simply cannot do all the work. I am OK and MTF keeps me going as a place I feel I am needed. What bothers me is my experience and knowledge may be wasted. I am old but there are experiences and tricks to be passed on. The tech generation does not understand. Is there an apprentice out there somewhere?

“If you don’t like New England Weather, wait a minute.”   So, the last two weeks in January, Concord, NH woke up to below zero temperatures with wind chill factors even lower.  Then the first few days of February we had 40-degree temps or higher.  My lawyer friends will appreciate this answer: “It all depends.”  But in maple perhaps not.  This is experience writing and the cold weather will surely help.  The more frost around the roots of our maple trees the better.  That will extend our season and prevent an earlier snow melt.  YEA!!!!!   For many years I used to say, “our maple syrup production season was two to six weeks” and then we had a 13-day season!  The old man was wrong!  The 13-day production season followed a snowless winter with little frost in the ground.  Sure, the sap ran, and it will run every year, but there was no snow and little frost to give us an average season.  New England Weather!!!  So, the recent cold weather should help but check with me in May and I’ll tell you how this production season turned out.  No predictions until the season is over.  Learned that lesson over time years ago.  

Mapletree Farm is noted for quality Maple products. The flavor of maple is changing due to labor shortages and technology. That is sad for me as I taste every batch of syrup I process. My syrup smells fresh and clean—not like the packer’s syrup at the supermarkets.

So recent rumors have surfaced that I am hanging up the scoop. Sorry to those who anticipated my demise. I’ll be out there boiling in March. For those of you who need syrup before the next boil, we do have a little left from the 2021 season. Not all sizes are available, but most are.

Our Bourbon Barrel Aged Maple continues to pass the test of time. Customers and fellow sugar makers will attest to that. As you know we do age our BBAM for six months or more in freshly emptied oak barrels direct from the Bourbon Distiller, Wiggly Bridge Distillery in York, Maine. Some processors are now making what they call Bourbon Flavored Maple Syrup by removing the metal hoops from the barrels, grinding up the oak staves, putting the grindings with maple syrup and bourbon in a vat overnight or for a short duration, filtering and making a flavored maple syrup. It tastes more like alcohol than genuine aged Bourbon Barrel Aged Maple. I have sampled some of the numerous offerings and they do not taste like ours! Time ages.

Come see us for lead + chemical free, quality maple products. COVID or NO the Sap will flow.

I’ll be out gathering sap or making maple syrup in the sugarhouse!

Thanks for your loyalty,

Dean AKA to some as the old man of MTF whom time is catching up with.

Time

Years ago, I wrote about my Uncle John Wilber handing the reins of his horses, Tom and Dick, to me as we gathered sap in his sugarbush. That year, 1947, I learned I was “hooked on maple.”  From that time on I spent countless hours helping Uncle John, Uncle Harry, Grandfather Knight, and my cousin Bob Knight sugar.  Millions of gallons of sap, thousands of gallons of syrup, and Father Time have brought me to realize it is time to pass the reins, to hand over the drill, to lay down the firing gloves, and to pass on my maple experiences. 

I’m still learning and yes, maple is still my passion, and it always will be but as the saying goes: “Old sugarmakers never die, they just evaporate.”  This past season I’ve learned that I cannot continue due to both age and health reasons. Mapletree Farm has been in East Concord since 1975.  My family started it as a small backyard operation.  For the past 47 years, it has grown and continues to grow. We have watched the planted sugarbush grow to a tappable size and beyond.  Many visitors have helped tap the trees and gather sap from them.  Others have enjoyed walking the trails and observing the abundant wildlife. 

As I’ve aged with Mapletree Farm I have taken great pleasure from sharing its bounty with visitors. Seeing those frequent smiles is such a reward.  Children are especially fun here and I wish I could adequately transfer to them my childhood memories of what sugaring was like when I was growing up.  We gathered sap buckets by hand (often with yokes on our shoulders) and used horse-drawn sleds to hold the sap tank. The sugarhouses had no electricity or running water. It was hard work.  

Even with modern conveniences, it’s still hard work, but not as hard as it was back then. There are a few sap buckets here at Mapletree Farm.  Yes, you can still catch sap dripping into those buckets, but now you mostly watch sap flow through miles of sap tubing.  The efficient wood-fired evaporator we have now makes twice as much syrup per hour as the one I fired as a teenager that was one and a half times larger.  

Change is inevitable, as is aging, so I’ve thrown the last wood into the evaporator and laid down the firing gloves.  I’ll switch to the training and educational part of sugaring.  Yes, I expect to be at Mapletree Farm for a few more years but not responsible for much of the work.  There will be younger and more energetic blood running the farm next year. The transition may start as early as this coming July.  I am excited since there will be changes made that I could only dream about.   I’ll be here to help in the transition but not doing all the work.  A nice change.  An inevitable change.  The old saying of “Maple is in my blood” is true.  That happened 75 years ago when Uncle John handed me the reins.  I learned way back then and I’m still learning.

I made some great syrup this past production season.  Stop by for your maple needs.  I’ll still be here often.  At my age, it will take me time to pass on the tips and experiences of making good maple products. 

Dean aka The Old Man of Mapletree Farm

2021 End of Summer Update

It is hard to believe Labor Day Weekend is upon us.  The summer at Mapletree Farm has flown by.  It seemed like it rained all summer, or at least most of it.  So what does that mean for our maple trees?  It is hard to say, but my educated guess is that there will be more and much sweeter sap in the spring of 2022.  Educated guess?  We experienced a severe drought during the summer of 2020.  The sap we collected this past spring contained very low sugar content, the lowest I can ever remember at the start of the production season.  We never got a “big sap run” either.  It took an average of 66 gallons of sap to make one gallon of syrup.  That is way more sap than previous averages.  The syrup throughout the season ran darker than normal.  It took more sap to make syrup and thus took more time to boil.   The longer the boil, the darker the syrup.  Every sugarmaker I know had the same experience.  Given the 2021 summer weather was about the opposite of  the 2020 summer weather, I am predicting that the spring sugaring season will be far different than this past sugaring season; hence my educated guess.

Our summertime projects have involved making lots of maple cream, making many bags of maple coated nuts, and keeping up with the syrup inventory. In addition, we have been cutting next season’s firewood and mowing the planted maple grove by the sugarhouse.  The maple grove looks fantastic now with lush grass and ferns.  For those of you who have never seen our planted sugarbush or maple orchard, there are photos on this website and social media (@mapletreefarmnh).

We have had numerous guests this summer as part of the Harvest Hosts Program.  The guests are overnight campers with self-contained recreational vehicles.  So far our guests have come from nearly 40 states across the USA.  I have talked to most of them and have given many tours of the sugarhouse.  It is great fun explaining the maple story.  So many have had no idea of what it takes to make maple syrup.  Yup, some even thought it came straight out of the tree! Others have thought the sap lines were part of an irrigation system.  It is nice to be able to correct the various misconceptions and to let guests sample our pure New Hampshire maple syrup.  Some claim they will never buy “store bought” again!  I tell them we ship.

Soon the leaves with turn their magical colors and the maple trees will  be brilliant.  Visit us if you want to see those colors and to stock up on maple holiday gifts.

Regards,

Dean aka The Old Man of Mapletree Farm

2021 Maple Syrup Production Season Summary

COVID or no, the sap did flow!  Yes, Mother Nature said, “to hell with the Pandemic and let the sap flow freely.” Was it a great year?  No, however, we made a fair amount of syrup in March, we set some new records, but unfortunately, we did not make as much syrup as we should have.  Mother Nature ruled.  Warm temperatures prevailed.

The mild temperatures and low snow depth in January allowed us to prepare early and so we did.  We ran another 20,000 feet of new 3/16” lateral lines and did completely away with the larger 5/16” lines.  Our tubing count in length is now over 9.5 miles.  Our total tap count is now at 1,500, the most ever.  By March 1st, we were all tapped out, the tanks were set, and we were ready to go.  Our first boil was on March 9th and the last on March 31st.  In between we set some records, which was nice except that our production was roughly 2/3rds what it should have been.  We did collect 2,000 gallons of sap in a day.  Our previous best was 1,400.  We had the most taps ever, since starting 46 years ago with 110.  We made the most syrup ever (42.25 gallons) in one day and in less than four hours.  Previously 34 gallons in eight hours was our record boil.  The evaporator and reverse osmosis unit are perfectly matched.  Had the weather not warmed so quickly we might have made another 50-75 gallons of syrup.

COVID canceled our Annual Open House and Maple Weekend in 2020.  We missed seeing everyone.  This year we had two socially-distanced Maple Weekends with limited reservations.  Again, we missed seeing so many of our regular visitors.  Some of you visited when you noticed steam or my truck in the sugarhouse driveway.  We appreciated that.  You are welcome to visit anytime someone is here.

So What’s Sappening now at Mapletree Farm?  The evaporator and sap storage tanks are sparkling clean, the sap lines have been washed, and we have plenty of this year’s crop of maple syrup for sale here at the sugarhouse.  Stop by to replenish your supply or order on-line if you live outside of the Concord area.  We routinely ship across the country (and sometimes internationally) so everyone can enjoy our maple products wherever they are.

In addition to clean-up, and packaging this year’s syrup, we are also cutting the firewood necessary to fuel the evaporator.  This task will consume much of our spare time between now and Fall.  Mapletree Farm was established as a tree farm 45 years ago.  We seldom cut maples or marketable logs for firewood.  Storm-damaged hardwoods, dead or dying trees, and cull trees removed so healthy maples can grow make up our firewood supply.  There is an ample amount and we will never run out.  Our efficient equipment allows us to make lots of maple syrup while using very little firewood.  Years ago we used four times the firewood to make maple syrup.   Old photos of the firewood piles will attest to that fact.

So what is the Old Man of Mapletree Farm planning for sugarhouse improvements?  He is always thinking about maple and right now he considering a new, more efficient canning and packaging system.  During the production season in March he is too busy to fill as many containers of maple syrup as is necessary to meet annual sales.  Syrup is hot packed into stainless steel drums and repackaged as needed throughout the year.   The Old Man spends many hours canning or packaging maple syrup.  A multi-head canning unit would be great!  The ability to heat 30 gallons of syrup at one time would be wonderful.  We shall see.

There is a magnificent view out the sugarhouse window of the maple orchard.  Everyone often thinks of the wonderful fall foliage colors as spectacular.  That’s true, but each spring Mother Nature also provides us with her own ombre effect of spectacular foliage in hues of green. The medium greens of developing maple leaves, the lighter greens of developing oak and birch leaves contrast with the darker greens of the pines and hemlock trees.  The wonders of nature!

Pandemic – Not a Word in Mother Nature’s Dictionary

We have heard the P word incessantly over the past year; however, that word means nothing to Mother Nature.  Our maple trees are still in the woods, the sap will still flow, and we will be making a new crop of maple syrup very soon.  Politics, viruses, and even snowstorms will not stop the sap from flowing from our maple trees in February, March, and April.  The drought last summer may affect the amount of sap, but it will not stop the sap from flowing.  Mother Nature Rules. 

I am not taking the pandemic lightly.   At the sugarhouse we have taken additional precautions and sanitation measures as recommended by the CDC for the safety of our staff and customers.  The number of people impacted by this virus through job loss, illness, hospitalization, and death is most distressing to me.   In the 74 years that I have been around maple operations (including 46 seasons at Mapletree Farm), I have never experienced economic, weather, climate change, bugs and insects, or anything that has impacted the maple industry like Covid-19.  In March, our annual Maple Open House had to be cancelled, the number of visitors during our peak season dwindled to nearly none, and maple product sales slowed.  Like other businesses, we made adjustments – we introduced our popular Bourbon barrel-aged maple syrup, increased our shipping services, relied more on social media and extended our hours to compensate.  Now we are gearing up for Mother Nature to provide us with a bountiful few weeks of maple sap flows.  Yes, we have already started to walk and clear our sap lines.  Summer, fall, and winter storms have caused numerous trees to blow down across those lines.  The rule for sap lines is: straight, tight, and downhill!  Once the 30 plus miles of sap lines are cleared and tight, we will start tapping.  We will be tapped out and waiting to make maple syrup sometime around February 20th.   Mother Nature does not wait, and we must be ready when prime weather conditions indicate good sap flows.  One thing is for sure – sap will flow soon, and we will be turning it into maple syrup and related products.  We appreciate your support and look forward to your next visit.       

All the best,

Dean

2020 – Season #45 at Mapletree Farm

The 2020 sugaring season, (our 45th!), is here and, as usual, we are busy at work here in East Concord.  As of this post, we are nearly all tapped and have started making syrup. If you are planning on visiting during sugaring season and want to see gathering/boiling in action, please be sure to check the website or give a call first to make sure the weather is cooperating and the farm is open before making the drive.

We continue to make small improvements to the sugarhouse.  Most recently, Dean has unpacked some of his collection of antique and vintage sugaring artifacts to display around the building (we will have to build some more shelves to hold them all!). Meanwhile, Robert has been working to improve the pan lifting system to help make us more efficient and safer during clean-up. 

Blessed with an unusually mild winter and little snow, Dean, Chris and Robert have been diligently working in the woods replacing some of the older tubing systems as well as a new suspended mainline to the sugarhouse.  Another major project involved upgrading old tubing and preparing for additional taps at two existing sugar bushes along Oak Hill Road.  This project required running about 15,000 feet of new tubing.  We are now using sap spouts even smaller than the “5/16” (0.31”) Health Spout.”  They are only .172” in diameter and are thin walled to conform to the tree.  Yes, we still get as much sap while wounding the tree considerably less. 

You may have noticed we relaunched our website, Mapletreefarmnh.com, in 2018.  Among other things, a shopping cart was added to make it easier for our customers to place orders.  We update the website with the latest happenings at Mapletree Farm so make sure to periodically check it out.  In addition, Mapletree Farm is now on Facebook (user name – Mapletree Farm) and Instagram (user name Mapletreefarmnh).  Please like and follow us by clicking on the links at the bottom of the page.  These platforms allow us to more readily interact with our followers and vice-versa.  Here you will see more pictures of year-round activities at the farm.  They also offer an easy way for you to find out about any events, specials or limited edition maple products.   Speaking of which, have you picked up your Mapletree Farm dark robust syrup packaged in a specialty glass hockey player bottle yet?   Make sure you do before they are sold out.

This year the traditional New Hampshire Maple Open House Weekend is March 21st and 22nd and Mapletree Farm will be in full swing.  Come see how our maple syrup is made, filtered and packaged. Take a tour through the planted maple orchard, watch the sap dripping into buckets and traveling down the tubing network into the sugarhouse.  And of course, sample our maple products including maple syrup, maple cream and sugar-on-snow. Oh, yeah –  we will have a surprise or two to unveil, but more on that later.  And as always feel free to ask us questions.  We love to talk to people about maple!

Stay tuned to our website: mapletreefarmnh.com for “What’s Sappening” at East Concord’s historic sugarhouse.

Come and have a Blast!

“The reports of my retirement have been greatly exaggerated. ” – James Woods

“The reports of my retirement have been greatly exaggerated. ” – James Woods

A Message from the Old Man at Mapletree Farm

Woods, an actor, put his own spin on Mark Twain’s famous quote, “The reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated.”  In Woods’ case the rumor mill had him retiring.  In Twain’s case the rumor mill had him deceased and reading his own obituary in the paper!  The funny thing is that Twain’s famous quote was a misquote and the circumstances surrounding it were embellished.   Researchers have now clarified that his quote was made not upon seeing a prematurely printed obituary but because a reporter had asked Twain about his health.  Twain had responded simply, “The report of my death is an exaggeration.”

The gist of the initial quote and misquote is that you just can’t believe everything you hear.  And like Woods, who is a relative youngster at 72, the reports of my retirement have been greatly exaggerated – retirement is not in my vocabulary.

As I sit here and consider why people might be thinking that I have retired, I am reminded that there have been significant changes as late.  Amongst them – Meg’s passing, selling the house on Oak Hill,  constructing a new sugarhouse, a website upgrade with online shopping, land acquisition for additional maples to tap, upgrades to tractors and woods equipment; I am starting to see how the rumor may have started.  No matter… Change is inevitable, as is aging and I have to admit that age has been catching up with me.  Nevertheless, I am at the sugarhouse nearly every day at least for a while, so feel free to call and schedule visits or pick-ups, although I do try to steer clear of Sundays outside of the sugaring season.

In 1975, the Wilber Family entertained the neighbors with an old-fashioned Sugaring Off Party at the end of the season.   Over the 44 seasons since, the party expanded and morphed into a two-day Maple Weekend celebration.  The spring tradition of maple syrup production is unique as Mapletree Farm has  remained the only continuously operating sugarhouse in Concord.  Mapletree Farm’s focus on family fun and maple sugaring education has made this tradition even more popular. 

Since the end of the production season, I have made numerous trips to Vermont and northern New Hamphsire picking up supplies, including 25,000 feet of new tubing.  Yes, at 79 I will be out there in the sugar woods putting up new lines.  Why new lines?  Our experiment with the smaller 3/16” lateral lines has proven very successful.  All new 3/16” lines and the small spouts were installed in the planted orchard at the sugarhouse this past season.  The sap flow directly into the sugarhouse noticeably increased and lasted a week longer.  Impressive!  We get more sap naturally and the lines are much easier to clean.  The spouts we use with the 3/16” tubing are 0.172” in diameter, that’s 45% smaller than the 5/16” health spout we started using 15 years ago and those were 28% smaller than the “old school” spouts of my youth.  The tiny spout is softer, allowing it to conform to the tap hole preventing leakage.  Sound complicated?  Since we only use gravity flow and natural vacuum the installation is simple.  All lines must be straight, tight, and downhill! 

Like any farm, there is always something new and plenty to do at Mapletree Farm.  It really is a year-round operation that keeps me busy.  

While I was walking tap lines along the Oak Hill Tower Road in late March.  One of the Tower workers said: “Hi Old Man, how is the sap running?”  Honestly that is the first time I had been called “Old Man” to my face.  Since then others have referred to me as the Old Man of Mapletree Farrm.

This old man plans to be around Mapletree Farm when it celebrates it’s 50th season of bringing the maple story to New Hampshire and beyond.   If you have not visited Mapletree Farm recently, come see us and checkout what is new.  You will be surprised.  The technology, the equipment, and the cleanliness will give you a new appreciation for our maple syrup.  And you just may leave saying, Ok I did just prove one rumor true…Mapletree Farm has the best syrup around 😊

                                                                Dean

PS If you want to see what I’m up to in my “nonretirement,” follow and like Mapletree Farm on Facebook (username Mapletree Farm) and Instagram (username Mapletreefarmnh).  Admittedly I’ve had some help getting Mapletree Farm’s social media sites up and running, but I’ve been busy taking pictures with my phone and trying to come up with informative posts to share my love of maple.   You’re never too old to learn!



Our 44th Year. 2019 Season Update.

“The Secret of change is to focus all of your energy, not on fighting the old, but on building the new.” — Dan Millman
Welcome to the 44th season at Mapletree Farm! East Concord’s best kept secret and the only continuously operating sugarhouse in the capital city.
Last year, we focused on the changes that had occurred here at Mapletree Farm, which were huge. That hasn’t stopped for 2019, and while most are more subtle, they are still very significant.  Over the past year, we continued with a few smaller building upgrades and finishing touches, a few equipment upgrades, more taps and of course, a new website.  Mapletreefarmnh.com is now e-commerce friendly for the ease and convenience to our awesome customers.  As with any change, there are always challenges, so bear with us as we work through a few kinks.  As always we are only a phone call or e-mail away if you prefer personal assistance.
It is fairly well known in the maple circle that here at Mapletree Farm we generally do not tap as early as others. We still like to wait until later in February when the sap is sweeter. This year, Mother Nature has largely cooperated with us and our later tapping has been timed well with the weather, so we are now on our way to making some great syrup and plenty is available for sale.
This year our Annual Open House Weekend is March 23rd and 24th which is the traditional New Hampshire Maple Weekend. Come see how our maple syrup is made, filtered and packaged. Come and visit, take a tour through the planted maple orchard, watch the sap dripping into buckets and traveling down the tubing network into the sugarhouse. Sample our maple products including maple syrup, maple cream, and sugar on snow. And as always feel free to ask us questions. We love to tell people about maple!
Come and have a Blast!